Christian Kirk

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Second-half dominance powers No. 10 A&M past No. 17 Arkansas, 45-24

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No. 10 Texas A&M grabbed a late touchdown run from quarterback Trevor Knight in the first half and shut down No. 17 Arkansas in the second half of a 45-24 victory in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies shut down the Razorbacks in the second half and scored 28 points on offense to improve to 4-0 and head into October thinking about making a run at the SEC West title (and potentially for real this time).

With the game tied at 17-17, Arkansas put together a draining 89-yard drive on 19 plays, but it was the Texas A&M defense that held strong down by the goal line. Just as they had done twice in the first half, Texas A&M prevented Arkansas from punching the football across the goal line, this time with a fourth-down stand. Two plays later, Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight unloaded a deep ball to Josh Reynolds racing down the right sideline. The ball was placed perfectly for Reynolds and he let his speed take care of the rest on a 92-yard touchdown drive. It was quite the momentum swing and the Aggies did not look back.

Texas A&M scored a touchdown after forcing Arkansas to punt on the ensuing possession and took advantage of a short field from the 15-yard line after an Arkansas fumble. Trayveon Williams did the honors on the first touchdown with a 33-yard scamper and Christian Kirk got his hands on a pass from Knight after the Razorbacks’ fumble.

Four games into the season and there appears to be enough evidence to suggest this Texas A&M defense has improved, and that helps make Texas A&M a formidable player in the SEC West moving forward. Is it ready to take down Alabama? Probably not, but the Aggies have the look of the second-best team in the SEC behind the defending national champions. Arkansas still has the potential to play spoiler with anyone on their schedule though, including Alabama.

Knight was a machine for the Aggies, ending his night with 225 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, a game-high 157 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Arkansas quarterback passed for 371 yards and two scores, but took a beating all night.

Texas A&M is 4-0 for the third straight season under Kevin Sumlin. The last time Texas A&M went 4-0 in three straight seasons was 1939-1941. It is also the third straight undefeated September for Texas A&M, which was last achieved from 1997 through 1999. The hot seat talk has been nowhere to be heard in College Station this season.

Arkansas gets a likely breather next week when they return home to host Alcorn State. A home game against Alabama looms after that. Texas A&M will stay in SEC play next week when they head to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a 17-10 loss at Kentucky.

Alabama, Clemson each land two on FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Marlon Humphrey and Clemson offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins will be playing a rather important game in just a number of hours, but they each received one more honor for the 2015 season. Each was named to the Freshman All-America Team on Monday by the Football Writers Association of America.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers were among some of the more household names appearing on the Freshman All-America team from the FWAA on Monday. The FWAA also included first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman as its First Year Coach of the Year. Herman beat out finalists Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh. The Freshman All-American team featured 10 redshirt freshmen this season and included 12 players for both offense and defense, with five more specifically for special teams.

2015 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

OFFENSE

  • QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
  • RB Mike Warren, Iowa State
  • WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
  • WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee
  • WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • OL William Clapp, LSU
  • OL Will Noble, Houston
  • OL Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
  • OL Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
  • OL Connor Williams, Texas

DEFENSE

  • DE Walter Brady, Missouri
  • DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
  • DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
  • DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
  • LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
  • LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • DB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  • DB Kareem Orr, Arizona State
  • DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
  • DB Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
  • DB Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

SPECIAL TEAMS

HEAD COACH

  • Tom Herman, Houston

Newcomers lead Texas A&M past No. 15 Arizona State

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A year ago, Texas A&M could not have beaten No. 15 Arizona State the way it did on Saturday. Well, the Aggies probably couldn’t have beaten Arizona State at all in 2014, but definitely not this way. Because, a year ago, Texas A&M did not have John Chavis and it did not have Christian Kirk.

The Aggies used a fast, aggressive defense and the multidimensional Kirk to upend the Sun Devils, 38-17, in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Chavis, the high-priced defensive coordinator robbed away from LSU last December, guided a defense that ranked 97th nationally in yards per play and 111th in rushing into a strength – at least for one night. Behind All-America candidate Myles Garrett, Texas A&M forced eight sacks and two turnovers, limiting the Sun Devils to just 2.2 yards per carry and fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Bercovici to 25-of-40 passing for just 199 yards. Arizona State mounted only one sustained touchdown drive on the night – its first score came after a Kyle Allen fumble deep in Aggie territory – an eight play, 75-yard march that pulled the Devils to within 17-14 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.

While the A&M defense did its job, freshman Christian Kirk carried the Aggies’ offense and special teams. A former five-star out of the Phoenix area, Kirk returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to put Texas A&M up 14-0 with 12:51 in the second quarter, then put the game away for good with a 66-yard grab-and-weave with 3:45 to go in the game, giving the Aggies a 31-17 lead. After Texas A&M forced a turnover on downs deep in Arizona State territory on the ensuing possession, Tra Carson added a 10-yard insurance score with 1:38 remaining.

The sophomore Allen garnered the start for the Aggies and posted decent numbers – 15-of-26 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns (he hit Carson for a 9-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter) and added a 12-yard touchdown run to put A&M up 24-14 – but committed two turnovers and was victimized by a swarming Arizona State defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin turned to true freshman Kyler Murray for much of the night and he answered by dancing for 69 yards on six carries to go with 4-of-9 passing for 49 yards and an interception.

Arizona State successfully bottled up the Texas A&M running game for much of the evening – Carson gained 96 yards on 29 carries, and will have 29 lumps to show for it tomorrow morning – and Murray’s speed and elusiveness proved a successful antidote.

As dominant as the Arizona State front was, though, Texas A&M was even more so, limiting the Sun Devils to 92 yards on 41 carries. Overall, Texas A&M outgained Arizona State 425-291 and held the Sun Devils to 5-of-19 on third downs.

Texas A&M entered the season a dark horse to contend in the SEC West and beyond, and rewarded that faith Saturday night. And considering so many of tonight’s key pieces – Chavis, Murray, Kirk – are still feeling themselves out, here’s the scariest thought of the night: Texas A&M will probably get better from here.

Texas A&M leading No. 15 Arizona State at the half

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Put two teams that averaged north of 35 points a game a year ago together and you get… a game dominated by defense and special teams? That’s what we’ve seen so far in Houston as Texas A&M leads No. 15 Arizona State 14-7 at the break.

After Texas A&M opened the scoring with 28 seconds left in the first quarter on a nine-yard catch-and-run from sophomore Arizona native Kyle Allen to Tra Carson, the Aggies grabbed control with a 79-yard punt return by true freshman Arizona native Christian Kirk, pushing the score to 14-0.

With the Aggies threatening to break the game open, Arizona State climbed back when Christian Sam stripped Allen and J.D. Alexander recovered the ball and raced to the Aggies’ four-yard line. Mike Bercovici hit Kody Kohl one play later to put the Sun Devils on the board with 9:56 to go before the break.

Allen played the majority of the snap for the Aggies, hitting 8-of-15 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Kyler Murray played the final series of the half, completing two of three passes for 27 yards and totaling two rushes for one yard. Carson has rushed 12 times for 41 yards.

Bercovici has completed 12 of his 16 passes, but for just 62 yards. The destructive force that is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett has had a lot to do with that. Demario Richard leads the Devils on the ground with 30 yards on five carries.

Arizona State will receive to open the second half.